Mr’s retailer of the year: hudson’s bay and lord & taylor

by MR Magazine Staff

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Executive Profiles

Click on the names below to read profiles of key personalities at Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor.

Liz Rodbell: President of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor
The Menswear Team: Wayne Drummond, Nelson Mui, Jim Monteiro and Tom Eckrich
MaryAnnue Morin: Chief Merchant, Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay
Peter Rizzo: SVP Design, Menʼs Private Brands
Michael Crotty: CMO and EVP, Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor
Andrea Wasserman: SVP, E-Commerce, Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor

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Three and a Half Centuries of Heritage

Hudson’s Bay Company
Hudson’s Bay Company, one of the oldest in North America, was founded in 1670 through a charter granted by King Charles II, giving it a fur trading monopoly over about 1.5 million miles of land around rivers that drained into Hudson Bay, or about 40 percent of what is now Canada. The company had sought the backing of the English king because American and French groups weren’t interested. The powerful fur trading company merged with its biggest rival, the North West Company, in 1821, expanding its reach to most of modern Canada. With the British North America Act in 1867, Canada became a self-governing country. Two years later, Hudson’s Bay Company signed the Deed of Surrender, in which it sold its land back to England, which in turn transferred them to the new country of Canada.

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By the dawn of the twentieth century, Hudson’s Bay Company had transitioned out of the fur trade and into retail. At the recommendation of Harrod’s chairman Richard Burbidge, Hudson’s Bay restructured its operations, making retail a separate division in 1910. This gave way to the launch of the company’s six original department stores in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

Hudson’s Bay grew over the subsequent decades through acquisitions of retailers, including Cairns in 1921, Morgan’s in 1960, Freiman’s in 1970, Simpsons, Field’s and Zellers in 1978, and Woodward’s in 1993.

In 2006, American billionaire Jerry Zucker acquired Hudson’s Bay Company, taking the 336-year-old company private for the first time in its history. NRDC Equity Partners CEO Richard Baker, who joined the HBC board that same year, bought the company in 2008 for $1.3 billion.

Lord & Taylor
Samuel Lord and George Washington Taylor, two English immigrants, opened Lord & Taylor in 1826 as a women’s hosiery and shawl shop on Catherine Street in Manhattan. After a few moves and a lot of growth, Lord & Taylor moved to its current Fifth Avenue flagship and headquarters in 1914.

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Lord & Taylor is known for a lot of firsts. It was the first retailer to install an elevator and the first to make windows decorated for Christmas a holiday tradition. With its Manhasset, Long Island store in 1941, it was the first department store to open a branch store. Lord & Taylor president Dorothy Shaver became the first woman to lead a major retailer in 1946.

From the 1970s through the 1990s, Lord & Taylor grew to a peak of 86 stores across the country; in 2003, it closed 32 of them. In 2005 the chain was acquired by Federated, which in turn sold it to NRDC Equity Partners a year later for $1.2 billion.

The New Hudson’s Bay Company
Since NRDC took over Hudson’s Bay Company, it has been a constant dealmaker. The company sold the leases to all of its Zellers stores in Canada to Target in 2011 for $1.8 billion (but Target closed all 133 of the stores it opened after two years). It acquired Saks Inc. in 2013 for $2.9 billion. Last year, the company began a strategy that it says unlocks the real estate value of its stores. It started with the $650 million sale/leaseback of its Toronto Hudson’s Bay flagship and continued with the $1.25 billion mortgage on the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship. And in February, it made joint real estate venture deals in the U.S. and Canada with Simon Property Group and RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, respectively.

Fast Facts

Governor and Executive Chairman: Richard Baker
CEO: Gerald Storch
President, HBC Department Store Group: Elizabeth Rodbell
2013 revenue: $5.2 billion
Lord & Taylor: 50 stores and 4 outlets
Hudson’s Bay: 90 stores and 2 outlets
Hudson’s Bay Company also operates 67 Home Outfitters store, 38 Saks Fifth Avenue stores and 79 Saks Off 5th off-price stores.

Industry Accolades

“When you reflect back on the long history of these organizations, it’s amazing how many years PVH has worked with both Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay. I believe our relationship dates back to the 1800s!

“That said, the changes that have occurred at Lord & Taylor in recent years are remarkable. They have a whole new identity, transforming their menswear floors into exciting, young, modern spaces. They’ve also done an exceptional job managing their store brands with dignity, which is not so easy at the department store level.

“And the team is so impressive. Liz Rodbell is one of those rare iconic leaders: she knows product, is totally involved with merchandising, she knows operations, she’s good with people and is a great partner who’s never afraid to speak her mind. Wayne Drummond is also a strong leader: he’s a good communicator, doesn’t micro-manage but is always there to support his team. He understands where they need to go.

“Finally, when you consider what Richard Baker has accomplished in his short tenure, you’ve got to give the guy tremendous credit. The merging of their department store divisions appeared seamless; we look forward to many more years of working together.” —Ken Duane, PVH

“Richard Baker is a visionary: the way he’s combined and transformed two disparate retail organizations to bring out the best in both is pure genius! When he first came on board, people questioned his merchandising expertise because he wasn’t a retailer. But he’s smart: he knows how to assemble a team and create a corporate culture. His people all speak highly of him: his vision, his work ethic, his leadership.

“Of course, much of the credit goes to the team itself: Bonnie Brooks, Liz Rodbell, Wayne Drummond, MaryAnne Morin and their respective merchants. And Peter Rizzo brings an incredible taste level to their private brand strategy.

“I virtually grew up with The Bay and when I walk the floors now, be it Vancouver or Queen Street, I’m in awe of the level of luxury, the upscale product and the great brands. The same is true for what Liz and her team have done at Lord & Taylor: 10 years ago, no one thought they’d even survive; now they’ve recaptured their carriage trade image but in a modern way.

“It’s a testament to what can be done if you have a vision and the right team to execute. (Still, they’re somewhat conservative in their execution: they have their own process for testing—first in 10 doors, then performance is measured—but we’ve learned to be patient.)” —Oscar Feldenkreis, Perry Ellis International

“Liz Rodbell is a brilliant merchant with endless energy—the Energizer bunny! She is smart, savvy, innovative, honest and direct. She is creating differentiation by bringing in new designers and niche brands. She’s also focused on newness and ‘experience’ throughout the store. One such idea is her ‘birdcage concept’ in women’s, located by the highest traffic area in the store—women’s shoes. She is a dear friend and a dynamic leader who inspires her team and the entire industry.” —Karen Murray, VFC/ Nautica

“Hudson’s Bay and my buyer in particular, Erin Thompson, have always been great to work with. They’ve fostered a true sense of partnership. I’m appreciative of retailers like them because too many large ones (I won’t name names, ha!) try to take advantage of their position of power. I’ve never felt that Hudson’s Bay has done that with me.” —Micah Cohen, Shades of Grey

“We’ve had the extreme pleasure of working with the Hudson’s Bay Company for over 70 years and Lord & Taylor for the past 25 years.

“Both companies have been extraordinary partners and we are very proud of their ongoing support and absolute commitment to innovating, elevating and growing year after year.

“We very much cherish the many wonderful relationships we have developed with their talented and entrepreneurial management team including Bonnie, Liz, Wayne, Jim, Tom and Mark.

“We congratulate Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor for being named Retailer(s) of the Year, and we look forward to exciting new challenges ahead as they continue to blossom into a world-class retail organization under Richard Baker’s brilliant helm.” —Jordan Lipson, American Essentials

“When you think about how much more modern and exciting their selling floors look today than 10 years ago, you realize how far they’ve come. They are clearly attracting younger, more affluent customers without losing their moderate base.

“And it all starts at the top: Liz Rodbell is incredibly aggressive and fast! (She moves so quickly you can hardly see her.) And the entire men’s team (Wayne, Tom, Zack Safe) is equally aggressive: they understand fashion, they’re willing to try new things. (In the old days, they were much more conservative: they wouldn’t touch a brand that ended in a vowel.) They understand that when you test, you win, so they’re keeping ahead of the curve.” —Ron Wurtzburger, Peerless

“Hudson’s Bay is successfully evolving and reengineering their business for the future. Fundamentally, life accomplishments are based on aspirations to succeed coupled with the intelligence to analyze and strategize. Wayne Drummond recognizes this and has done an outstanding job building the team and providing the leadership necessary to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. Throughout our tenure of 21 years with Hudson’s Bay, we have been able to collaborate with great merchants like Mark Pittman and Jim Monteiro, always striving towards mutually rewarding goals. We are appreciative of and thankful for our partnership.” —Russ Fearon, Throat Threads

“Lord & Taylor’s success rests solely on their people’s abilities. Liz Rodbell’s vision and leadership complemented by wonderfully talented people who really understand the business is a winning formula for success. They are honest as the day is long, have a willingness to listen, are upfront with vendors and overall great to deal with.

“On the men’s team, Wayne Drummond is a terrific merchant and a real gentleman. Tom Eckrich and Jim Monteiro know their markets and have done a great job evolving their businesses. As we launched the Vince Camuto men’s business, they have been extremely supportive from day one.
“We are proud to be partners with Hudson’s Bay/Lord & Taylor.” —Dan Orwig, Itochu

“About 20 years ago there was a young sportswear buyer who viewed the collection I was representing. He loved the line and pushed hard to bring the brand to Canada. He trusted his instinct and fashion sense and went out on a limb to make it happen. His name is Wayne Drummond and he is a forward thinker with excellent taste. Under his leadership, Tommy Bahama has had great success at Lord & Taylor and we can’t thank him enough for his continued support.

“Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay are fine retailers who operate with a high amount of integrity and professionalism. We value our partnership, which is open and honest and extremely profitable for both companies. We thank them for representing Tommy Bahama with style and grace, and we look forward to continued growth and success.” —Peter Leff, Tommy Bahama

“I’ve known Wayne Drummond for over 20 years as a man of impeccable taste, not only in clothing but also in people. He has built one of the finest management teams in the menswear industry. This crew includes seasoned players Mark Pittman and Jim Monteiro, who vie not only for the best comps and margins (where they fare well), but also for the lowest golf scores (where there is room for improvement). Wayne has also drafted the best young talent I’ve ever met.” —David Chivers, Randa Accessories

“Diesel North America is proud to be a partner of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, and we congratulate them for being named Retailer of the Year. Diesel embraces their visionary approach for the North American market and is committed to reshaping the retail landscape as
strategic business partners.” —Tommaso Bruso, Diesel

“We’re not a huge supplier to Lord & Taylor/Hudson’s Bay but I have tremendous respect for them. They’ve been outstanding in their mission to reinvent themselves, and although they’ve struggled several times over the years, they still keep trying, often going against the grain (upscale when the trend is downscale, and visa versa). I totally admire their tenacity and their recent successes.

“Who they are as an organization is exemplified by Tom Eckrich. He is always open to look, open to talk, open to try, open to buy. And he’s always a consummate gentleman. As for Liz Rodbell, she’s aggressive, very smart and she empowers her people. They are a terrific team.” —Alan Rubin, Lanier

“From their inception in the 17th century, Hudson’s Bay has focused upon creating a highly efficient supply chain, nurturing relationships with great trading partners and providing superior value to their customers. With Liz, MaryAnne, Wayne and today’s remarkable team at Hudson’s Bay, that legacy is in excellent hands. Under their leadership partnerships will grow, the supply chain will be well leveraged, and consumers will benefit from an extraordinary shopping experience. I look forward to sharing their incredible and continuing journey.” —David J. Katz, Randa Accessories

“Lord & Taylor was my very first account, 18 years ago. When they say ‘vendor partnership’ they really mean true partnership. We’ve been in this together the entire time. Their teams consistently show excitement for great product as illustrated by the Lord & Taylor commitment to their Black Brown brand. Fashion fresh, yet Lord & Taylor classic, new without being scary, they invest time, money and passion on making every product compelling to their customers. And they succeed. I want to thank Tom and his team for their outstanding partnership.” —Moe Paradiso, Randa Accessories

“Richard Baker should be nominated to the Fashion Industry Hall of Fame. He took a huge risk in acquiring Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay at a terrible economic period in our country. He then sold part of his retail real estate portfolio in Canada for an amazing amount of money, which helped ensure his permanence in the department store business. Richard’s sale of stores in Canada to Target will be remembered by his partners as a huge win, and by Target as a huge failure.

“Richard’s purchase of Saks and Saks Off 5th is turning out to be equally brilliant as Richard has found untapped value in its real estate. Richard must stay awake all night. He calls at 7 a.m. to get thoughts on yet another unique strategy for improving profits.

“Liz Rodbell, equally impressive on the merchandising and strategic front, keeps the business focused on product and strategic growth opportunities. This partnership is exciting to watch and also profitable for the vendor. They are addressing retail silos that span from luxury to off-price.

“Their shareholders, their vendors and their customers are grateful for all that has been accomplished in a short time. We wish them continued success, and we at G-III are grateful that we can play a role in helping build all of their assets.” —Morris Goldfarb, G-III

“Lord & Taylor does a fantastic job of making a department store feel like a specialty store, with a menswear team that understands special product, value and trends. While a challenge of department stores today is attracting younger customers, Lord & Taylor, with some cool brands and great presentations, is managing to attract this contemporary segment. We work with Tom, who’s a really good guy and an astute merchant: he knows the market well and knows just what Lord & Taylor’s customer needs. His team, including Will and Kyle, are totally on top of the trends. They’re a great team doing all the right things!” —Ron Rheingold, Weatherproof Vintage

“While most of us acknowledge that Richard Baker is a brilliant real estate strategist, he is an equally astute retail visionary who possesses tremendous leadership and people skills. I congratulate Richard on hiring, promoting and inspiring some of the best retail minds and talent. And in so doing, building an amazing and cohesive management team that has embraced and executed the new vision. They sincerely and strategically ‘walk the walk’ of partnership, and as such, the team has deservedly earned the support and respect of our entire industry by implementing the new direction of the company with great focus and integrity.” —Al Israel, Triluxe

“Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor have been great partners. They believe in the brand and are excited it’s continuing to grow.” —Pria Titus, G-Star

“Clearly Hudson’s Bay/Lord & Taylor are on a mission to deliver a better all-around experience for the consumer. Because they utilize outlets to clear through residual inventory, their messaging is less confusing than their competition’s: their execution is better and their brand assortment is more differentiated.

“At the Bay, the new Queen Street renovation that combines Saks and HBC is very elevated and modern, in a premier location.

“The Lord & Taylor men’s team led by Tom Eckrich is collaborative, open and easy to work with. Tom is as transparent as they come, very honest and straightforward. He makes an effort to get in front of any potential issues. He listens and will give us credit if he feels we are right on a position we might disagree on.” —Electa Varnish, VFC/Nautica

“I’m very impressed with the progress Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor have made. Most notable is how they’ve transformed their menswear business, creating a much more modern and contemporary feeling in both the assortment and the aesthetic. Their menswear floors look terrific.” —Todd Bernstein, Lacoste USA

“We’ve had a close-knit relationship for over 25 years with Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay. They are terrific partners, and we’ve enjoyed watching them grow their business through the years. We continue to work with them to add newness in both fashion and brands throughout their stores. They’re always looking to see what more we can do together. They have an outstanding team that understands their consumer’s wants and needs. They pay attention to every little detail, from the fit to the buttons.” —Rich Wurtzburger, Peerless

“For years, Levi Strauss & Co. has partnered with Hudson Bay Company on both our Levi’s and Dockers brands. Over the past five years, we’ve been impressed with the complete transformation of their business witnessed through their visual brand environments and the creation of an elevated consumer shopping experience across Canada. There is a shared commitment to our heritage, as well as attention to fully integrating and engaging the consumer.” —Mary Ann Shannon, Levi’s and Dockers

“What we value most about Lord & Taylor/Hudson’s Bay is the pride they take in their work and their cachet to global consumers. British culture is now more visible than ever before. The pride we share in bringing an iconic British brand with a sharp London style to the U.S. and Canada embraces and strengthens a core partnership.” —Rich DeVilla, Ben Sherman North America